Sunday, September 07, 2008

My favourite small museum (in Madrid) (so far)

This was my third visit to the Museo Sorolla. I fell in love with Sorolla's work - that's Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida - when I happened on an exhibition in Granada a couple of years ago, and I don't know how it could have taken me a year to visit this special place. Yes I do: unsocial hours. I'm hoping for a better timetable in my second year!

The first room - lots of family paintings. This is his wife Clotilde and their third child, the newborn Elena, in 1895.

The second room. Seaside paintings. Sorolla was born in Valencia. You can almost hear and smell the sea in his paintings, and this is exactly how Mediterranean sunlight bounces and sings and dazzles. Most of these pictures were painted a century ago, but they're so alive and immediate. The clothes may have changed, but mothers still swing children up onto one hip, swathed in a towel, and sunset always glitters across a summer beach, turning the wet sand tawny, picking out iridescent threads of algae, and casting the sea in umpteen shades of jade. The sunlight fairly squeaks off those white blouses and skirts. I'm glad I didn't have to keep up with the laundry in those days!

Clotilde again.

The third room. Sorolla was internationally successful in his own lifetime, a contemporary and friend of John Singer Sargent, and was able to have this house designed by an architect. The first two rooms were exhibition and sale rooms, and this third one was his studio. It was designed to give him as much natural light as possible. What works for an artist doesn't work in a museum: one of the windows has since been blocked up and another curtained off to protect the paintings in the collection, but the atmosphere is still airy and pleasant. This is some house!

Clotilde, and eldest daughter María. María and Joaquín, the middle child, went on to become painters, and Elena became a sculptor. There are a lot of Sorolla pere's sculptures and ceramics in the house, but I have been too absorbed by the paintings to pay them much attention. No matter, I'll be going again.

There's an alcove devoted to small sketches. My photo of my favourite, a quick and very alive sketch of Clotilde, has come out blurred. I'll try again another day.

Almost Beryl Cook. Almost Giles!

There are several photos of Sorolla at work in a three piece suit, or respectable trousers and waistcoat, and a sun hat. No smeary painter's smock or wiping his hands on his trousers!

In the stairwell. 'Mis chicos'. (My Little Ones) This is the closest he gets to sentimental. It's a lovely painting, and there's no mistaking the relationship between the two older children and their little sister, and between little sister and her father. It's difficult not to smile back at the Elena of a hundred years ago. At a time when photographs were - of necessity - posed, and solemn, how wonderful to have a painter in the family.

Upstairs, in the first room.

María, Joaquín and Elena again. The woman's face is merely an impression - a nanny, perhaps? What is Elena doing?!

Clotilde intent on her camera.

The second room.

There's also a room of almost lifesized paintings of people from different parts of Spain, in traditonal dress.

And a room full of ceramics.

And an Andalucian garden which has been beautifully restored as a shady place to while away a hot afternoon or quiet evening, lulled by the trickle of water. While I was inside this afternoon, Habibi sat out and enjoyed the garden.

I have pics, but it's late, and I've got a train to catch in the morning. More when I get back.

1 comment:

nzm said...

Stunning - I've never heard of him before, so thanks for the education. Some painters really know how to paint people to make them alive and Sorolla's one of them.

Enjoy your WOOFing - come back with more pics and tales to tell!